What we’ve learned from sequestration

When the sequester hit a few months ago, it hit. Academia and the healthcare industry both took significant punches. U.S. academic medical institutions are collectively facing reductions up to $1 billion, prompting large scale layoffs and implementation of creative cost-saving strategies. At Vanderbilt, a key strategy is to improve internal workflows and find ways to increase the efficacy of our daily operations.

One way CTTC is working to increase office efficiencies is by employing a “just-in-time” model of patenting innovations, as opposed to the more traditional “inventory” model. Whereas the inventory model disconnects marketing activities from patenting decisions, the just-in-time model encourages early evaluation and marketing of technologies - preferably even licensing the technologies - prior to investing substantial resources in patent prosecution. This approach accomplishes several goals:  (i) sunk capital in uncommercialized, patented technologies is minimized; (ii) inventories of large quantities of issued, unlicensed patents is avoided; (iii) unreimbursed patent expenses are reduced; and (iv) commercialization and deal flow are enhanced, leading to improved financial returns that can support basic research and development efforts.

While the full effects of sequestration have yet to be realized, the lessons are rolling in:

  • The healthcare industry will need to do more with less;
  • Improved workflow and increased efficiency are critical to success;
  • And sometimes a simple change in philosophy can have a major impact on productivity.